Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Journler rocks!

Just wanted to make sure everyone knows about my new favorite piece of organizational Mac software before it stops being donation ware (which it will do in a couple of months). Though I must admit, I love it so much that I did pay the guy for it. And yes, I did use the word love to describe a piece of software. Rob insists that that is the word that describes how I demonstrably feel about this software. :)

Check it out:

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mission delayed

Again, we hung around in the morning, waiting to hear from the translator. By 11AM, it was clear that we would not be meeting on this trip. We went to get snacks at the downtown Shoprite before hitting the road. We left by noon, not able to wait any longer if we wanted to get home before it was too dark to drive on the highways safely. Michael got his mailing address by SMS before we left so we can mail him the stories to gloss.

The trip back was much hotter as the skies were mostly clear and blue, with scattered white puffy clouds (read: no shade). Michael's Toyota Hilux has A/C so we didn't suffer any. Just made for toasty knees for me, as I was sitting in the front seat. Got a few more fun pictures on the way back, especially of some zebra that almost seemed to pose.

Watched another episode of Sad Love Story on BTV. Man oh man! Those are the weepiest characters ever!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Waiting to meet

After a delicious buffet breakfast of yogurt, muesli and fresh tropical fruits at our hotel, Michael came and brought us to Hilary's, where he likes to have breakfast when he's in town. During coffee, we (Michael & I) went over the retyped and reformatted stories that Rob and I had finished on Thursday and that I had gone over on Friday. Having not heard from the man we were going to meet, we walked around the airport a bit, looked at local cultural handicrafts. I found my first locally made greeting cards and bought all of the ones I figured could be shipped to the US with no problems at customs; all 4 of them. I was too hesitant to get the ones with ostrich feathers and eggshell bits, pretty though they were. The ones I did buy support with sales a local community, which is nice.

We went to lunch at the local Nando's, near our hotel, in downtown Maun. The food was good as usual, though service was painfully slow. I was actually jittery an shaky with hunger by the time it arrived at the table. It took over an hour for our food to be brought to the table. The reason became clear, though, when we left. The Maun Nando's has a bus stand in the parking lot. They had a lot of customers who had a short, finite period of time in which to get their food before the bus took off again to it's next destination. Given that some of these travelers may have already been traveling for hours, with many more hours to go, I can see why they had to be fed first. Just means we should pick a different lunch stop for ourselves when we're in Maun, as much as we love Nando's.

We went to our respective hotels to wait for the call from our translator. By the evening, it was clear that the meeting was not happening today, though we still have hope for a Sunday morning meeting. We had a nice dinner (pasta for me and ostrich steak for Rob) and called it a night.

HIV materials

This is the first hotel I've stayed in where the hotel amenities included free condoms in the bathroom, right next to the free shampoo and free bath & shower gel. Also, the condoms in the dispenser in the public bathroom outside the hotel bar were free as well. Impressive, especially given the recent media reports of condom shortages in Gaborone.

The poster behind the door in one of the bathroom stalls was HIV educational. Note the use of the word whilst. I love that people say whilst here!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Trip to Maun

It was a long drive today but exciting enough to keep me awake. The sky was cloudy and we even had rain for part of the way so it didn't get too hot in the car. Part of the trip was through game parks and we did see some zebra and ostrich on the sides of the road. Most of the animals that we saw actually on the road were cows, goats and donkeys. We grabbed some snacks at Nata and drove on through, arriving in Maun around 3PM. Michael checked into his hotel (Maun Lodge) and we checked into ours (Riley's Hotel). Nice hotel, beautiful grounds. There's a pool (which we didn't get around to using) and a restaurant. Breakfast is included.

After we settled in and relaxed a bit from the trip, I started going over the back translations of some Bible stories in a local language, making notes where I had questions. We were hoping to meet with a local teacher who had done back translations of these Bible stories and to get some word glosses.

Dinner was interesting. I ordered seswaa, which I split with Rob. It came with papa (cooked cornmeal, almost identical to plain, unseasoned grits) and shredded spinach. Seswaa is pounded beef. Mine had the bones left in it when it was pounded so I had to be diligent about finding bone shards before swallowing. Flavor was good though; it was just tricky to eat.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Maun trip

We're heading to Maun tomorrow for weekend meetings with a translation project team there. Rob and I have been typing translated portions for the last few days in prep for this meeting. More to come after the weekend.

Monday, October 22, 2007

In the zone

I had a mentally hectic bunch of days last week and, to some extent, this weekend. For one thing, I kept not feeling “optimal”. It was a lethargic feeling for most of the week, in which I thought I must be fighting something. Given that several people around me were sick, in one form or another, it wasn't much of a surprise that I would be fighting something. Nothing went full-blown, though. The worst was Friday, when I got so weak I had to lie down for a bit. Also, my head was hurting. The headache came to its peak as I was going to bed that night. I even had a dream in which I got up and took ibuprofen for the headache. After that, funnily enough, every time I woke up, my head would hurt a bit at first but then I'd remember that I “took ibuprofen” and the headache would subside to a “took ibuprofen” level. You know that feeling, when there's a trace of it there, enough to let you know that the underlying condition still exists and you're just squelching the symptoms. When I got up in the morning, the headache was still at the “took ibuprofen” level, even though I pretty much knew at this point that the taking of ibuprofen had been a dream. Power of the mind, eh? So, I took Saturday really easy; no walks to the post office (like we had done on Thursday) or to Galo Mall (like we had done on Friday). I only sat and lay around. By evening, the headache was completely gone, thankfully. Sunday was a full day, with a 4 hour Confirmation service in the morning and lunch out at Spur with the Megahans after that. We pretty much zonked for the rest of the day. Watched episode 12 of Sad Love Story in the evening.

My accomplishments for last week were mostly communication and support related. I managed to convert all our Data Manager (donor records) files for the last 2 years into a format that I could control and analyze more easily; Journler entries with tags to sort them into “smart folders”. Then, I developed a smart folder and an entry template for tracking potential and past speaking venues, for when we go back to doing partnership development (a.k.a. support raising) on furlough in 3 years time. It's OK if none of that makes sense to anyone but me. I'm just glad to have finally found a program (Journler) which allows me to be “collatin' data”, as Patience would say (Firefly series, pilot episode “Serenity”). I then used the Data Manager smart folder to track my correspondence. I won't even explain how I'm doing it. Suffice to say that I love Journler. And it was free! Gotta write a thank you to the developer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The yogurt worked

I did it! I made my own yogurt! Last night, around 7PM, I heated up a small pot of milk to just before the boiling point. I poured it in a jar and let it cool until about 9:30PM on the counter, then added about 1/4 cup of plain yogurt. I put the tightly sealed jar in a large pot with hot tap water, up to about 1/4 of the way up the side of the jar. I put the cover on the pot, covered the pot with a couple of dishtowels and wrapped the sides of the pot with a bath towel, to keep some heat in. This morning, at 6:30 when we got up, I checked the jar: it was full of firm yogurt! I put the jar in the fridge and tested it for flavor a few minutes ago. Yum. Good to know. I'll just have to keep it up, making a fresh batch every 5 days so that the cultures stay active.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Yogurt adventures

We've had occasional plain yogurt shortages here, especially at the end of the month when grocery store shelves empty, so I'm trying to come up with a way of making it myself. As a healthy digestive system is the first line of defense against most things that attack the immune system, yogurt is our primary prophylactic. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for a yogurt maker but, in the meantime, I'm wondering how I might do it low-tech. Most online recipes involve using the stove at precise temperature and I'm not thinking our stove can handle that. Well, I got an idea today while bringing in the laundry. I've been using our Action Packers to bring laundry in and out, closing the lid when I fill it with dry stuff to bring in. Just before lunch, I put a few dry items in, shut it and brought it inside, promptly forgetting about it. Half an hour later, I remembered the dry laundry and went to fold it. When I opened the lid, a wave of heat came out. Aha! Yogurt maker! If I can heat the milk, cool it, add the starter and put the milk-filled glass jars (old peanut butter jars) in something like an Action Packer in the sun for the whole day, that should do it. Not an Action Packer itself though; they're too valuable in this neck of the woods to risk that kind of sun damage. We'll find a plastic container in one of the local China shops. Which do not sell, as one might think, china. Rather, they sell cheap mass-produced goods from China. China shops are all over the place here in Francistown.

Average Ndjo

Yesterday afternoon was a laundry afternoon, though I'm doing a couple of loads this morning as well. I've always enjoyed doing laundry (as opposed to taking out the garbage, lets say) and, even though my methods are different here, it's the same for doing laundry here. The washing machine requires a little more baby-sitting than I'm used to. Last week, I heard a huge gushing sound and went into the bathroom to find that the drain hose had popped off. Water was shooting out of the tub and onto the floor. We had to do an emergency washer shut-off and water containment with towels and rugs. Rob then fixed the rubber hose back on, tightened the clamp and I dared to wash again. Now, I'm still a little edgy running the washer but check the hose before each load. I'm also used to just tossing the clothes in the dryer and walking away to do other things. Now, I have to hang things on a clothesline. After a slight wet spell, I find that the ants come out in force and swarm under the clothesline. They have a tendency to swarm over my feet and up my calves so I find myself throwing the clothes up on the line as quickly as possible. Over the arm goes the wet clothes, one hand full of as many pegs as it can hold. Reminds me of that baby/bridal shower game, where you have to see how many clothespins you can hold in one hand. Turns out those skills have become useful for me again after all. Today is a perfect laundry day and I'm taking full advantage of it. The sun is beating down but there's a breeze that comes across the drying area every few minutes. Beautiful. Makes the laundry smell so good, that sunny, clean and warm smell.

I've noticed that having a maid is a normal thing here, for anyone who can afford it. I've had random women offer to work for me but I haven't gotten into that yet. For one thing, this isn't our flat so I'd be hesitant to employ a stranger with all the Knights' belongings here. Secondly, we're not sure if we're staying in Francistown for very long so we couldn't really offer someone something long-term. They'd probably start out working for us and end up unemployed when they could have maybe found longer term employment from someone else sooner. Thirdly, we're still tourists here so we're treating our daily tasks as part of the learning process. For the most part, we're traveling on foot or by transport with others, fairly common for your Average Ndjo here. And doing our own laundry, cleaning and food prep is part of that experience. Sure, these things are taking a lot longer than we're used to but it isn't like we're neck-deep in work right now. Once our visa is processed and we're in our own place and headed into something solid, we may think about doing our part for the economy and employing someone; sharing the wealth, as it were.

I finally got to see Men In Black last night, for the first time. It came on BTV. Tonight's movie is Finding Forrester but I don't know if I'll get to see much of it. Marie, a neighbor on the corner of our block, invited me to an Avroy Shlain party. It's seems similar to Avon, from the website, but it's based in South Africa. It's a dinner and product showing, with door prizes. Marja, who lives upstairs, is going and I'll be going with her. It'll be held at Tati River Lodge, just a few kilometers away. Rob was invited but he's not so much into cosmetic products, eh?

Tomorrow is Rob's big recording session at Rev. Mothetho's church. We'll be leaving around 10:30AM and be there for the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon. Rev. Mothetho's daughter, Ndapiwa, will be observing Rob to get an idea of how live choral recording is done, to see if she wants to get into that. I'll be there as photographer.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Right on the money

When we sat down to breakfast this morning, I overhead one of the managers encouraging people to have everything in order as the president was coming. Then, I heard her telling people to hurry and bring the snacks as some of the ministers were already there. I commented to Rob that I wondered if she meant the President, as in Festus Mogae, president of Botswana. On the way out, I thought I'd ask. So, I asked a lady who appeared to be in charge if the President was here. She said that, yes, he was. Well, I must have overreacted excitedly (if you can imagine that) because she said, “Would you like to meet him?” I said, “Would I!” She pointed to the lady she was talking to and said that she was the one I'd need to talk to. So I asked if I could meet him and she said that she could make it happen, asked how long I'd be around. I said that I was on my way out. She said that if I came back at lunchtime, she'd introduce me. I was so excited! So, we ran our errands in the morning (visited the Bible Society office, found the Reteng meeting place) and returned at lunchtime.

When we got back to the eating area, I looked around for the President but didn't see him or the lady who told us to come back at that time. Another lady saw us (Michael introduced her as Shelly later) and asked if she could help me. I told her about the lady who said she'd introduce us and she knew who I meant, brought me to her. The lady from earlier told me to go get Rob and Michael, that he'd meet us there in the room where he would be having lunch with the ministers. So, I got them and came back. When we got back, we were stopped by security but Shelly talked us back into the room. There, we sat and waited for just a few minutes. He actually shook our hands twice; once on his way to the bathroom, not knowing we were there to meet him, and again when we were introduced when he got back. First, he met Michael, who explained who we were an who we were with. When I was introduced to him, he commented on my name and asked what kind of name it was. I said that it was Inuit and he got a thoughtful look on his face, said he'd been reading something about the Inuit recently [more on that later]. Then, he met Rob. He welcomed us to Botswana and hoped we were enjoying the country.

At least, that's how I remember it. He may have said other things too but, frankly, I was a little overawed. I mean, this was Festus Mogae, the President of Botswana! He's on the 10 pula bill! It was so exciting! I'd been watching a lot of him on BTV news, including a Talk Back Africa episode where he took live calls. Live calls. Can you imagine? And I really like the way he interacts with people. He gives off an air of quiet, sensible confidence that any leader would envy. Yup, I'm a huge fan.

So, on he went with his day and we went on with ours. A bigger day for us, I would imagine. I realized later why he had probably been reading about the Inuit when I remembered Botswana's recent input at the UN conference drafting of a declaration of indigenous peoples rights. Like I said, definitely a fan.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Resting day

Got a slow start this morning and am taking it easy, with the headache and all. I won't be watching TV since it's all kid's shows and sports until 6PM but we will be going to practice driving with Jo Ann this afternoon. They've offered us the Tazz to drive so we'll practice driving that today. Still, we haven't decided whether we're going to drive the Tazz, a little squinty vehicle, suitable only for in-town driving, or rent the Rodewalds' Land Rover. They have a spare one, I guess. I suppose much will be determined by whether or not we move out to Maun, where a sturdier vehicle is a must for longer trips.

I think I'll play a little Age of Mythology, maybe read a book, maybe take another hot bath. The bath really seemed to help yesterday, especially with a few essential oils in it to help with general symptoms. I added Immupower (an immunity-boosting blend), peppermint (for breathing issues and aching muscles) and lavender (for relaxation).

Tomorrow, we make the trek to Gaborone early in the morning. We'll be there until Tuesday.

Niggling headache

I've had a consistent ill feeling in the mornings for the last few days. I wake up lethargic and sore-headed. I do things to make me feel better and they do, for a while. Then, by evening, I often feel bad again. I'm perturbed by the waking up feeling bad thing. Hot baths seem to help. I am having sinus goo issues as well. Rob suggests that it may be related to some sort of allergic response to either pollen or, more obviously, dust. I'm going to do some sinus cleansing, see if I can't get this head thing to clear up since it's negatively affecting my total sense of well-being.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Turned around

I slept for a while this afternoon, kind of crashing at 1PM after a hot bath. Woke up at 2PM feeling much better so agreed to walk to the post office and grocery store. It was quite windy out and I thought the negative ions might do me some good. After mailing some letters and picking up stamps, Rob asked if I would mind walking to a music shop he had seen last week on our jaunt at that time, to check out what kind of recording gear would be available locally for setting up a studio for Rev. Mothetho. I said I was OK to do so. When we got closer, we could hear music and were pleasantly surprised to find a local band playing live to a crowd outside the shop. We listened for a few songs before squeezing through to get into the shop and actually do some shopping. When inside, the owner welcomed us and explained that the band was not supposed to have set up in such a way that they blocked the entrance. He had allowed them to play there as a promotion and was disappointed that they had actually prohibited business on that particular day, rather than attracting it. I understood his frustration. We'll have to check with him when we go back, see how he did after the band finished their set and packed up.

Interesting things that we noticed; none of the people watching the band were grooving, at all. I mean, there were 3 people dancing right in front of the band, sort of free form. But everyone else standing around, close to a hundred people, were doing just that – standing and watching. No bouncing or even head-bobbing and toe-tapping to the beat. And it was a rocking beat. I remembered that at the festival last weekend it had been the same way. People just watched, they didn't dance a little bit on the spot. I actually asked Portia about that, the non-dancing along thing. She said that it wasn't appropriate to dance along, that “you just have to watch what they are doing.” The proper form of expressing appreciation for their art is close, silent observance.

Now, one of the differences between the festival and what we saw today was applause. At the festival, there was a burst of applause from some of the observers. Today, not a clap. It was totally unexpected. As a musical artist myself, I would feel totally dissed if I was greeted with that kind of silence at the end of a piece and that lack of crowd-grooving during the piece. Yet, a respectful silence is apparently exactly the right way to appreciate art here. I don't know how they can stand it. It took every nerve I had just to keep from grooving; anyone who has seen me in the presence of a beat knows that. Kind of throws everything I've ever been taught about Africans and music solidly and directly out the window.

On the way home, we took a slightly different route. I knew that if we walked a block away from the main street, we'd hit St. Patrick so I suggested that we walk that way, follow St. Patrick back to the Village Mall and then go home as usual. The Village Mall is about a 5 minute walk from home. As we passed Choppies and made it to St. Patrick, Rob said, “Look; there's Nando's!” And it was. I turned around and was floored to see Nando's restaurant, our favorite chicken place. Galo mall was right there! We had found a new way to walk there, one that would chop off 5 minutes of walking each way. So, we actually could get more groceries and return on a more comfortable route. The road we walked there on a week or so ago was a main road; lots of traffic, very dusty, no sidewalk and very little shade. In contrast, St. Patrick is a lovely little side street that runs parallel to the main street for most of the walking that we need to do to get to Galo Mall. Not only that but the Sell advertiser office is on St. Patrick and I was able to grab the new edition on the way back. The Sell is a free weekly paper of classifieds. It's main draw for me is the weekly schedule for BTV, the national TV channel, the only channel I get. We also found an Anglican church on that road that meets Wednesdays at 5:30PM and Sundays at 8:30AM. Not sure what language the services are conducted in but I'd still like to check it out.

The Rodewalds had invited us to join them for their weekly football (i.e. soccer) game but we didn't really make it back to our place in time to get changed, eat and go play so we just stayed at home all evening, relaxed. besides, given my general ill feelings, I had probably better not push myself too hard right now. Maybe next week.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Change in the weather

I break in the recent spell of rain yesterday afternoon had us scrabbling to get laundry done before the sun went away again. I had forgotten what it's like to be dependent on the weather to get your clothing dry. Even with a couple of hours on the line, we still had to hang some things up in the house to finish the job. It was all dry by today.

This afternoon, after we got back from the office, we got our sheets washed and put out to dry. It was pretty hot and dry out there today. After the wash was out, I got suddenly lethargic. I've been dragging myself around all day since then. Most of the time, I just lay on a chair in the living room. I don't know what the problem is. My muscles are all weak and I feel hot, though I don't have a fever. I'm lethargic but I can't sleep. Hopefully a bunch of water and vitamin C will fix me up before the weekend. We're driving to Gaborone with the Megahans on Sunday to meet with Reteng, the local vernacular language promotion committee, on Monday morning.

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